British Columbia fruit growers are spearheading an initiative to help prevent Washington State orchardists from dumping cheap apples and cherries into Canada.

At the Canadian Horticulture Council’s annual general meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, in March, growers called for changes in the process for dealing with trade grievances and penalties for violations.

"We want both the Canadian Horticulture Council and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to take forward to the government something that is more workable and more responsive," said Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association and co-chair of the Hort Çouncil’s apple and fruit committee. "What we have now takes far too long. We are looking at streamlining the process and having a triggering mechanism that can be enacted within a week’s time. We want something in place that brings market stability immediately.

"Right now, all they do is look at your case, and they put in a temporary duty, but you have to prove injury. Why would they force a commodity sector to further expend resources to prove injury?"

Okanagan Valley apple producers estimate that revenues for their 2004 crop fell by $75 million, due mainly, they claim, to declining prices caused by the dumping of Washington apples on the Canadian market.

The B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association launched a formal complaint, but ended up not pursuing it at the advice of its own lawyers.

Sardinha said that it took so long to gather the pertinent facts and the prices eventually rebounded, so the lawyer said it didn’t make sense to keep going forward with the challenge.

"In the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, from time to time, there is dumping that happens," Sardinha said. "The current process takes a long time and it’s very expensive. We have to retain trade lawyers and that can cost $250,000 and up, and no guarantee is in place. It takes months just to collect the data to submit a complaint to border services."

B.C. growers want to see the government monitor the prices of commodities shipped into Canada.

"That way, dumping could be detected immediately, and an emergency tariff could be applied to prevent prices from falling too low," Sardinha said.

He said he is planning to set up a meeting with federal Minister of International Trade David Emerson to discuss the proposals.

"The timetable for us is this year, as soon as possible. We’ve had a pretty good marketing season for apples, but a lot of that is due to the amount the Washington crop is down because of hail damage. If they have a good crop next year, we could have another situation like we had in 2004. The cherry industry also has the potential for dumping to occur."